Jacqueline ordered the scallop sashimi with lemon confit and crunchy toasted buckwheat kernels. Tarquin went for the chicken liver fettuccine, the livers topped with a sweet Marsala-enriched sauce. I was sorry to hear of your husband’s accident, he said. I have no sympathy, sniffed Jacqueline. Snowboarding at his age, I ask you! But at least he’s out of the coma, said Tarquin. That’s good news. Jacqueline sniffed again. It makes little difference if he’s in a coma or not, to be honest. He sleeps most of the time even when he’s awake. She called a waiter over. This looks and tastes disgusting. Take it away and bring me something I can bear to look at and actually eat. Okey-dokey, said the waiter, and sloped off kitchen-ward. I trust Mona is bearing up? said Tarquin. I have no idea, said Jacqueline. She’s rarely at home these days, she’s always off cavorting with her pals and goodness knows what she gets up to. Is she not with Sebastian? asked Tarquin. The waiter returned and placed a dish in front of Jacqueline. What’s this? she asked. Bubble and squeak, said the waiter. Oh, super-duper and yummy-yum. She dived in, and did not speak again until the plate was cleared and licked clean. Then she said, Sebastian? Oh, him. Perhaps. I really don’t know and could not care less. Anyway, I hope you are not lonely at home, said Tarquin, what with absent spouse and absent daughter. If ever you should feel in need of a little company . . . Well, it does get a little lonely, replied Jacqueline, and smiled what she imagined to be coquettishly.


Conrad Titmuss







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